In this Guide
Canister vacuums are more maneuverable and versatile than upright models. They’re better for cleaning tight spaces, stairs, and houses with multiple flooring types. However, a lot of us can’t afford to drop $400-$600 on a Dyson or Miele.
More and more inexpensive, budget-priced models have hit the market, but most of them just aren’t very good. They have flimsy hoses, weak suction, or air-powered carpet heads which are too weak to be effective.
Are you really stuck choosing between low-quality budget canisters and $500 premium models? We don’t think so!
But which cheap ones are really worth your money? Reading buyer reviews, it can be confusing to tell why the same product is “just as good as a Dyson!” or “you get what you pay for–garbage”.
We went on a search for the cheap canister models. We looked at expert reviews and roundups in Consumer Reports and Good Housekeeping, and we compared lots of best-selling models online.
We also took the time to sort through hundreds of conflicting reviews from previous buyers. We chose our models to fit a wide price range, from about $100-$350.
Below, you’ll find our in-depth, comprehensive reviews of 3 inexpensive models that we think you’ll love. We chose them for their reliability, user-friendliness, and overall power.
At the bottom of the page, we’ve put together a list hrefof a few things to consider as you shop for the right one for you.
– Miele C1 Pure Suction
– Sanitaire Commercial
– BISSELL PowerGroom
Our Review of Top Rated Canister Vacuums
1. BISSELL PowerGroom
The BISSELL PowerGroom is one of the least expensive models to feature a motorized brush head! That makes it one of the only canister models under $350 that’s powerful enough to handle mid-to-deep pile carpeting.
It’s a super affordable choice for people who have a lot of carpet, and want the maneuverability and versatility of a canister model without the big price tag!
The brush head is fully motorized. That’s very impressive at this price point, and lets the BISSELL compete among much higher-priced models. Even some of Dyson’s $400 models have only air-powered carpet attachments! Motor-head models from Kenmore and Panasonic easily cost above $300.
With a powered brush roll, the PowerGroom can handle medium, deep, and shag carpeting, as well as larger area rugs. This makes it a great choice for homes with primarily carpeted floors. The floor head lies flat to clean under furniture and into tight spaces.
Both the suction power and the brush speed are variable, so you can adjust for cleaning both carpets and hard floors. The hard floor setting is designed to make it easier to clean hard floors without the brushes flinging dirt around, as happens with many cheap motor heads. The carpet setting speeds the brushes up to dig deep into carpet fibers and loosen hair and dirt.
The PowerGroom uses cyclonic suction. That’s usually found in higher-priced models. It’s more powerful than traditional suction, and it also produces more constant airflow. That’s because the cyclones direct fine dust and debris away from the filter, and deposit junk at the edges of the dust compartment. This keeps airflow clear, and means you won’t have to clean the filters as often!
There are a surprising number of convenient features at this price point. All the controls for the power head are located on the handle. The wand is also telescoping, with a few height settings so you can adjust it to your body. The power cord rewinds automatically. There are footswitches on the body for turning it on and off, and retracting the power cord (which stores inside the canister).
The bagless dust compartment is fairly large, and empties with a button. You just lift it out of the canister, and hold it over the trash to dispose of all your debris.
It comes with the standard 3-piece accessory kit, with a dusting brush, crevice tool, and upholstery tool.
It’s very light. Previous buyers said it’s easy to carry, and easy to use above you. Reviewers with mobility issues and arthritis in particular complimented the weight and ergonomics of the BISSELL.
It’s not as well-designed or ergonomic as some higher-end models. For one thing, the extension hose doesn’t swivel at the connection to the canister. This makes the hose a bit more prone to tilting the canister and build up awkward tension along the hose. Previous buyers said they wished the hose would rotate, and be made from more flexible material.
The attachments can’t be stored onboard.
It’s fairly cheaply built. The whole thing is made from lightweight plastic, and some reviewers said it didn’t feel very reassuring. That’s pretty typical for canisters under $300.
2. Sanitaire Commercial
This compact, powerful canister is technically a commercial model. It’s become popular among ordinary consumers because it offers sturdier built, a more powerful motor, and a convenient shoulder strap for cleaning on stairs.
It’s a great choice for people with a mixture of hard flooring and low to medium carpets.
It’s much more sturdily built than your average budget machine. Because it’s technically a commercial model, the Sanitaire is built with thick, rugged plastic. The extension wand is metal, as are the adjustment pins. Overall, previous buyers said it felt much less cheap than other canister and upright models at this price!
This commercial also has a more powerful motor, stronger hose, and more tools than the standard residential model (the Eureka Mighty Mite). Previous buyers said that in terms of value, the upgrades more than justified the $20 or so price difference.
The Sanitaire’s variable floor head works on hardwoods, tile, and laminates, thanks to thick bristles. With the brushes retracted, it can also handle low-pile carpets and rugs. We particularly like the metal gliders for carpets, which slide over fibers more easily than plastic attachments. There’s an easy footswitch to change between settings.
It provides plenty of range. The extension hose is 7 feet long, and the power cord adds another 20 feet. The Sanitaire also comes with a strap, so you can carry it along with you. This is ideal for cleaning stairs and high places without taking up a hand. The strap makes it easier on your body, and gives you even more range!
It’s very compact. The Sanitaire has a small, rectangular canister with a small footprint.
It’s bagged. This makes the Sanitaire a good choice for allergy sufferers. The canister is also HEPA-ready, with a full filtration system onboard. Even though it’s a compact canister, reviewers were surprised at how generously proportioned the bags were. They’ll get you through several cleanings before you need to replace them.
It’s very affordable, especially when you consider how much better built it is than the competition! One reviewer described it as “the best, cheapest vacuum I have ever owned.” Previous buyers said it takes much less maintenance, fiddling, and upkeep than even more expensive canisters.
It’s covered by a 2-year warranty.
The cord doesn’t retract. You’ll have to wrap it around the canister when you’re done. Since the winding hooks are on the bottom, this means you’ll have to kneel down to do so. That was an inconvenience for some older buyers.
It looks pretty industrial. While most people don’t buy for the aesthetic, the Sanitaire is certainly one of the less attractive models on the market.
It’s not very easy to store, given that you’ll have the wand and extension hose to deal with. Previous buyers also said that the bracket for keeping the attachments onboard was flimsy, and didn’t last long.
It’s not equipped for thicker carpets or rugs. There’s no beater brush on the Sanitaire, so it performs best on thin, flatter carpets and rugs.
3. Miele Pure Suction
The Pure Suction is Miele’s most affordable canister vacuum.
We love it for its German build quality, variable suction, and excellent user-friendliness! It’s ideal for people who have most or all hard flooring in their homes, and want a level of quality distinctly above the budget range.
It terms of design and convenience, the Miele is worlds away from the Sanitaire or the BISSELL. We’ve included it as the most affordable “great” canister model. It has automatic cord rewind, and ergonomic handle, a hose which won’t kink or rupture, and a much more responsive canister design. While it’s limited to hard floors, it does its job easily, smoothly, and very effectively.
It has fully adjustable suction. There are 6 settings to choose from, and a handy dial on the canister with markings to show you how to use each level. This lets you choose high power settings to nab cobwebs or big furballs, or turn the suction down for cleaning delicate curtains or upholstery.
The convertible floor head works on hardwoods, tiles, and laminates with thick natural bristles. It switches to carpet mode for low rugs and carpets with a rocker switch.
The Pure Suction comes with the usual 3-piece accessory set, with a crevice tool, dusting brush, and upholstery tool. We particularly like the Miele upholstery nozzle, which abandons brushes for a velvet strip which draws up pet hair like nobody’s business!
There’s a built-in filtration system, designed to trap airborne allergens in the canister. We love that Miele integrates their filters into their dustbags, so you can change both at once. The bags are also self-sealing, so there’s no mess when you change over!
It has even more range than the Sanitaire. Between the power cord, hose, and extension wand, it has nearly 30 feet of cleaning radius.
It’s better built than the cheaper canisters and even the more expensive Dysons. All Miele products are built in Germany, with a very high level of quality control. The shells are made from hard, heavy plastic, and the wands are stainless steel. The rubber wheels on the canister protect the finish on your hardwood flooring, and all the brush attachments are natural bristles. Everything about Miele feels reassuring and high-end.
Plus, it looks much nicer. The compact, sleek design fits into the modern home, and isn’t an eyesore like the Sanitaire.
It’s got the top warranty on the market. The Miele’s motor and casing (the canister) are covered for 7 years, and there’s a year of coverage on all the other parts.
While it’s the most affordable Miele, the Pure Suction isn’t really a cheap one. At over $300, it’s getting into the mid-range models.
Like the Sanitaire, the Miele isn’t designed for thick, full-room carpets. The floor head can handle low area rugs and small bits of carpet, but it’s really meant for hard floors.
Which Canister Vacuum Should You Buy?
The BISSELL is the top choice for people with carpet who can’t spend more than $300 on their purchase.
It’s half the price of most other canisters with powered brush heads, and has reasonably good ergonomics and features. However, it’s not as sturdy or convenient as the more expensive models.
If you have a mix of flooring, with mainly hard floors and some flatter carpeting, we highly recommend the Sanitaire. It’s versatile, powerful, and much more reliable than other canisters at this price point. It’s the best choice for people with stairs in their homes, and buyers on a tight budget who don’t want to have to skimp on quality.
To get level of quality that competes with higher-priced brands and models, we strongly recommend the Miele Pure Suction.
It’s much better built than the BISSELL or the Sanitaire, and provides much more control with variable suction. It performs very well on any hard flooring, and can handle smaller, flatter area rugs.
With its combination filter/dustbags, it’s the top choice for allergy sufferers. However, it’s twice the price of the other two vacuums. It’s also not a good choice for people with carpet.
How to Shop for the Cheapest Canister Vacuum
Think about your budget:
Canister vacuums are available for around the same starting price as upright vacuums ($50-$100). However, they tend to range far higher in price for nicer models. For instance, the nicest Miele upright costs around $750. A top canister model from the same brand is around $1,000+.
In terms of the general market, a good mid range canister with decent carpet performance will run you between $350 and $500.
Below the $350 mark, you’ll be looking at budget canisters, which is what we’ve explored in this guide. They aren’t as ergonomically designed as the high-end canister models, and the vast majority lack powered carpet heads.
We’ve taken extra care to research these budget machines, since many are flimsy and unreliable. We excluded models under $100, since we couldn’t find any with decent ratings for reliability or effectiveness.
As a general rule, a machine with carpet capabilities will cost you about $100 more than a canister that’s equipped for mainly hard floors.
Think about durability:
The big downside of budget canisters is durability. Nearly all budget canisters are made entirely from cheap plastic.
We’ve tried to find exceptions, like the Miele and Sanitaire, which have metal extension wands. They key points to look for are the wand, the floor head, and the hose. You’ll be putting most of the pressure on the wand and floor head as you vacuum day to day, so you want to make sure they’ll hold up.
Since you’ll be pulling it by the extension hose, having it be made from cheap plastic is a major risk for breakages or leaks. We’ve looked for models with thick plastic or metal hoses, with no reports of cracking or rupturing.
The unreliability of many budget canisters is why we’ve included commercial models in our hunt for the cheapest canisters on the market. They’re better built, and will be more durable over time.
We also recommend looking for budget models from brands which also make high-end ones. They tend to offer better reliability and more reputable warranty coverage than cheap, knock-off brands.
Consider your flooring type(s):
Most models have either a convertible, combination floor tool, or two dedicated heads for handling carpets and hard flooring.
If you have mainly carpeted flooring, you’ll want a model with a motorized brush head. If you have a mix of hard floors and carpets (low to medium), you can get away with a convertible floor attachment without a beater brush.
If you have mainly hard flooring, including hardwoods, we recommend a flooring head with thick, soft bristles for loosening surface dirt while protecting your floors.
Bagged vs. bagless:
Bagless models have come a long way in the past few years. While they used to be messy to empty, most new bagless machines have detachable dust compartments that empty with an easy button.
However, since dust will come out as you empty the compartment, you will be getting some dust floating around the air. One trick is to empty the compartment into a trash bag that you’ve wrapped around the canister. This traps the dust inside, so you can wait for it to settle down before opening the bag again.
While bagged models have an inherent maintenance cost, they’re the better choice for people with allergies. Bags trap fine dust and dirt particles which bagless models can’t always dispose of without re-releasing into your air.